There are two ways that rookie-listed players can play in senior AFL games under current rules. The most publicised route is as replacements for long-term injured players, but teams who have less than two veterans outside their list (VOL) of 38 can also nominate one or two rookies to play in the ones so that they have 40 players to choose from on their official list every week. Everyone would like to know who is going to bob up to be this year’s Jake King, so the elevations are rather important to hardcore fantasy coaches. Here’s a list of rookie prospects from each club, including the number of spots available. (Note that I don’t know of any AFL teams which have officially nominated their selection-eligible rookies yet… if anyone has info please add it in a comment!)
Adelaide: one, Rhett Biglands LTI. The latest word from the Crows is that they’re going to wait to fill that spot, depending on SANFL form of their four rookies. None of the four would be particularly attractive given coach Neil Craig’s history of being very stingy with TOG with his young players, but James Moss would probably be the tastiest.
Brisbane: one, 1 VOL… although might be two if the retired Beau McDonald can be officially delisted. Colm Begley will fill the first spot but he’s already priced at well over $200,000 so he doesn’t represent great value. Daniel Dzufer would fill the other, most likely, but he’s also well above rookie price and unlike Begley he’s not close to the Lions’ best 22.
Carlton: two, 0 VOL. David Ellard, the man whose name gets me singing that stupid bloody Rihanna song every bloody time it’s mentioned, has been the only rookie to play all three NAB games, for scores of 50, 32 and 65. Keep an eye on him making his debut mid-year as an excellent temporary cash cow. Sam Jacobs is worth a look as your fourth ruck, if only because in DT/SC you shouldn’t actually be doing anything with your fourth ruck in terms of trading or starting if you can at all help it so he’s as good a minimum-priced player as any to set and forget on your bench.
Collingwood: one, Brad Dick LTI. Whichever of the Pies’ four rookies gets the nod to replace Dick is going to attract some interest. My view is that the Lexus Centre hierarchy will probably go the showbiz route and elevate Kevin Dyas for the Irish angle. At 20 years of age Dyas has a bit more experience than the other three, and every fantasy coach respects the mature age rookie.
Essendon: zero. All four of the Bombers rookies have played all three NAB games, with the only DT score above 35 being the 65 posted by Rhys Magin against the Lions in round 1. Magin is the only one I’d be interested in for fantasy purposes, and then only in SC because he’s an inside mid who won’t get many cheap marks.
Fremantle: two, 1 VOL plus Paul Hasleby LTI. Freo waited until they were knocked out of the NAB Cup to play their rookie-listed players. Of the three who did play last week against the Roos, their combined DT score was only 63. Ryley Dunn will be one, and Who Cares will be the other. No value.
Geelong: one, 1 VOL. With the Cats still gunning for flags you won’t see many of their rookies if at all this year. Brodie Moles and Shane Mumford are mature age, but that’s all that can be said about them.
Hawthorn: two, 1 VOL plus Beau Muston LTI. Cameron Stokes was fairly impressive against the Crows on the weekend in his third NAB game of 2008, enough to suggest he’ll be one of the two elevations. If Rioli doesn’t hit it off as the crumbing forward for some reason, or (more likely) he gets tired halfway through his debut season, Stokes will be there to pounce on his spot in the seniors. None of the other rookies have had a run in the preseason, with Matthew Suckling looking like the best possibility for fantasy purposes.
Melbourne: zero. Every man and his dog noticed Shane Valenti showing off his skills against Geelong, and he backed up that 80 with 62 and 56 in the subsequent NAB Challenge games. As I said on the Coaches Box this week, it’s not out of the question to stow Valenti on your forward bench from round 1 given the paucity of solid forward rookies, because if a spot does become available then he’s a no-brainer. Expect to hear of a police escort given to David Neitz after reports of fantasy coaches camping outside his house armed with a four-by-two and a chloroform-soaked hanky.
Port Adelaide: zero (although Michael Wilson could conceivably be put on the LTI list for the first 8 weeks while recovering from his achilles injury from the 2007 prelim). Not much value here, with Salter being the only outside possibility as this year’s Nick Gill.
Richmond: zero. Cameron Howat has cemented his rep as the Tigers’ NAB specialist with scores of 73 and 56 to go with his 99 last year, but his price of $265,500 in DT puts him right out of calculations. Tristan Cartledge is a possibility for your #4 ruck, for the same reasons as Jacobs above… also because if he was elevated it would probably be for Troy Simmonds!
St Kilda: two, 0 VOL. The Saints have two veterans but chose not to put them outside their list, undoubtedly as a (valid) financial trick to manipulate their total player payments for salary cap reasons. Jayden Attard played 20 games as a rookie last year and would undoubtedly have done much the same again had he not ruptured his ACL. His return is scheduled for the middle of the year, which makes it tricky to see how he will make it back onto the senior list. Robert Eddy is the only one of the Saints’ seven rookies to have played all three NAB games in 2008. His DT scores of 50, 39 and 25 make him an interesting player, who would be most valuable if the St Kilda selection committee delayed his senior debut until some of the other rookie centres had maxed out their fantasy prices. As for the other elevation, the Saints haven’t given many pointers: they named Glenn Chivers twice in the NAB series but he failed to register a stat in both games!
Sydney: two, Nick Malceski and Kristin Thornton LTIs. Given the Swans’ pathological disdain for blooding new Bloods, excitement over the two spots that have suddenly opened up has to be rather muted. Matthew O’Dwyer played all three games so far in the NAB for scores of 66, 51 and 20, so he can’t be ignored if he ever gets named in the ones. Aaron Bruce and Nick Smith have also been given three pre-season runs, for lesser averages of 36 and 32 respectively. If any of them ever crack it for a senior game then get on them, especially in SC. Don’t hold your breath.
West Coast: two, 1 VOL plus Mitchell Brown LTI. Plenty of value here. Ashley Arrowsmith only managed 25 in his one NAB Challenge game but his numbers in junior ranks bespeak of ball magnetism. Tall defender Beau Wilkes has posted 35 and 31 in two pre-season matches and the Eagles do need cover for Brown at centre half back.. although Callum Wilson played at CHB for South Fremantle in the WAFL last year. Wilkes’ Claremont teammate Lewis Stevenson is a wingman, a position which traditionally delivers solid fantasy scores for rookies. Any rookie getting a game for the possession-happy Eagles has to be considered.
Western Bulldogs: zero. Henry White would be the only rookie who would rate a look if the unlucky Dogs suffered yet another mid-season LTI. It’s only a matter of time, I guess.